We’re now at the halfway point of the NHL season and the NHL trade deadline is creeping up on us. General managers around the league are starting to settle in and decide if they’ll be buyers or sellers at this year’s deadline. Some, such as Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, are sitting in a tough position where there’s no certainty on where the club will finish. The Canadiens currently are sitting just one point back of the final wild-card position. A position where many Habs fans didn’t believe their club had a chance to be this season. However, due to the work by Bergevin in the off-season, as well as a solid draft, the playoffs are a realistic goal for the Canadiens. It also has Bergevin in conversation for General Manager of the Year.
Canadiens Marc Bergevin in Early Discussions for General Manager of the Year
When you look at the body of work for Marc Bergevin since becoming the Canadiens general manager, you can see how he has evolved. He once had an outlook for the team to get bigger and tougher. Now in his seventh season with the Canadiens, that approach has changed. Bergevin is now going with youth, speed and skill. A choice that he was forced to make after the Canadiens finished fourth last in the entire NHL last season. Bergevin took to the trade market last off-season in order to upgrade his roster while also bringing in some youth. He made three trades that greatly improved the roster. Not only for the present but for the future as well. Let’s take a look at the trades.
Trading Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi
Bergevin’s first move of the summer was trading disgruntled forward Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi. Galchenyuk was rumoured to be on his way out of Montreal for a long time. He had his issues on and off the ice and found himself in the doghouse of both Michel Therrien and Claude Julien more than once. Marc Bergevin finally decided to pull the trigger and deal him to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for their own disgruntled player, Max Domi.
When the Habs acquired Domi, many fans couldn’t understand why Bergevin would trade for a pass-first player in Domi when they clearly needed more goal scoring. They also needed a centre (which they had hoped Galchenyuk would be, but never panned out). Little did we know, Domi could actually play centre, and play it well I might add.
Domi has the defensive instincts and the speed needed to be an effective centreman. Not only that, but Domi actually leads the Canadiens in points with 39 points in 45 games. He’s only 15 points shy of Brendan Gallagher‘s team-leading 54 points from last season. His 14 goals are also five more than he had all of last season.
Domi’s character and work ethic are something every coach and general manager falls in love with, and it spreads throughout the team. So far, this trade looks like a huge win for the Habs.
Acquiring Joel Armia from the Winnipeg Jets
Marc Bergevin bought out the contract of Steve Mason, which now will have a cap hit of $1.36 million until 2020. This is peanuts to a team who is currently sitting with over $20 million in cap space according to capfriendly.com. In return, the Habs gain a solid two-way forward who can play on both special teams. Armia currently has four goals and five assists in 20 games for the Canadiens this season. However, it’s his two-way game that every fan has to love. Whether you’re looking for a goal or looking to prevent one, Armia is a player you can call upon every time.
The other benefit is that Armia still holds RFA status after this season. The Canadiens still hold control of his contract into this summer, which is huge in terms of asset management.
This move is a very underrated move. Bergevin used his cap space to acquire a young 25-year old asset for his team who can play both ends of the ice. It’s the type of move which Marc Bergevin has mentioned he is looking to make again this year.
Trading Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights
In what was the biggest move made by Bergevin this off-season, Bergevin traded his captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second round pick in 2019. This move was a move that was expected but the return is much greater than any fan could have imagined.
Pacioretty is coming off the worst statistical season of his career, turned 30 in November and was set to become a UFA at the end of the season. Of course, we all know George McPhee made sure Pacioretty would lock up with his club before pulling the trigger on the deal. However, for the Habs, no one really knows if Pacioretty would have resigned here. So moving him was something that needed to be done.
This trade might be the best trade Bergevin has made to date.
Tomas Tatar is currently on pace to have the best statistical season of his career. In 45 games this season, Tatar has scored 14 goals and added 19 assists for 33 points. His points per game average is currently higher than Pacioretty’s and he’s also two year’s younger. Tatar also has two more years remaining at $4.8 million a season, which is a lesser cap hit than what Pacioretty has and would have had if the Habs had kept him. Bang for their buck, Tatar is looking like the better player to have right now. Not bad for someone who was considered to be a throw-in by many fans.
Nick Suzuki is currently tearing up the OHL with 49 points in 32 games. He also just represented Canada at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Vancouver. According to Last Word’s Ben Kerr, before the trade, Suzuki was the 28th ranked prospect in the entire NHL. Depending on how this season finishes, he could potentially be ranked higher than that. Suzuki was the main piece of the trade as Bergevin made it clear he wanted a top prospect in any deal involving Pacioretty. He got exactly what he was looking for.
Plus, the Habs got a second round pick to boot. Not only is this trade better for the team in the future, but as of right now, it’s helping the team in the present.
Drafting Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Drafting Jesperi Kotkaniemi was a bold move but a necessary one for Bergevin. The Habs knew they needed help at centre, so why not draft the best one available. Kotkaniemi at the time was the fifth-ranked skater according to Last Word’s Ben Kerr as well as TSN’s Bob McKenzie. However, many Habs fans wanted the team to pick Filip Zadina, who was a pure goal scorer in junior. The Canadiens elected to go with a need at the draft and so far it’s paying off. Kotkaniemi made the club right out of training camp. He is currently playing on the powerplay for the Canadiens and his two-way game has been outstanding. The rookie currently has four goals and 17 assists in 45 games. His play will certainly have him in Calder Trophy conversation at the end of the season. A huge accomplishment at just 18 years old.
Marc Bergevin for General Manager of the Year?
With these trades and a good draft, the Canadiens have completely turned their team around. From sitting in the NHL’s basement last season to fighting for a playoff spot just a year later is a huge accomplishment in itself. Many fans and analysts had the Habs wrote off going into the season. However, after a successful off-season, Bergevin has silenced the critics. Marc Bergevin has stated that he will not sell the future of his team for a quick fix this season, however, he is looking to better his club to make the playoffs. If Bergevin can make such a move and get his club into the playoffs this season, he may just win the trophy for General Manager of the Year.